Seeking to shape up this summer for your fall sport? These six stand-up exercises, when combined with good nutrition and adequate sleep, will help tone your abs, build muscle throughout your body, and improve your balance and muscle endurance.
- Moderately heavy medicine ball or dumbbell (about 70-80% of your one-rep max)
- Stopwatch, wristwatch, or nearby clock with a second hand
- Water bottle (for hydrating before, during and after workout)
- Bench or chair
Guidelines (Think “Six” For That Six-Pack)
- Perform all six exercises in six minutes (Do six supersets. Perform just one set per exercise without resting between exercises)
- Perform six reps per exercise
- Rest 60 to 90 seconds after completing all six exercises to hydrate, then repeat the six-minute cycle
- Start with an upper- and lower-body warm-up. Finish with cooldown upper- and lower-body static stretches for flexibility
1. Single-Leg Squats
Hold dumbbell or medicine ball overhead and perform Single Leg Squat six times, then switch legs. This promotes balance and strengthens core muscles (abs, lower and middle back); quadriceps; hips; hamstrings; and shoulder and arm muscles. Learn more about the Single-Leg Squat.
The Single-Leg Squat is a foundational exercise for any athlete who wants to build strength and stability in the legs and hips, particularly in the quads and glutes. This variation of the Squat is performed on one leg at a time to develop equal strength on both sides of the body, as well as to improve balance and stability in the hips, knees and ankles. Through this guide, you’ll learn how to perform the Single-Leg Squat to take your workouts to the next level. Finally, check out some of STACK’s Single-Leg Squat workout videos, featuring elite athletes likeJustin Verlander, to learn how you can adapt the Single-Leg Squat for your sport.
Single-Leg Squat How-To
- Balance on right leg
- Keeping weight on heel, initiate movement by driving hips back
- Squat until thigh is near parallel with ground
- Explode out of squat position; repeat for specified reps
- Perform on left leg
Beginners should focus on perfecting form and technique and building strength. Perform Bodyweight Squats or Wall Squats before advancing to the single-leg movement.
Advanced Single-Leg Squat
For an additional challenge, advanced athletes can perform the Single-Leg Squat on an unstable surface like an Airex pad to improve balance and stability.
Common Single-Leg Squat Mistakes and Solutions
- Knee Collapses Inward: This results from insufficient strength in the muscles that maintain alignment of the knee with the hip and ankle. Perform Bodyweight Squats with a mini band wrapped around thighs just above knees to strengthen these muscles.
- Knee Travels Beyond Toes: Focus on sitting your hips back, keeping your chest up and raising your arms to shoulder height.
- Loss of Balance: Keep your head up and lock your eyes on a single point to help maintain balance.
Single-Leg Squat Technique Variations
To continue making strength and size gains, it’s important to vary your exercise selection. Learn how to Squat and find a full list of squat variations in
The Squat is a foundational exercise for any athlete who wants to build strength and power in the legs and hips, particularly in the quads and glutes. Through this guide, you’ll not only learn how to perform the basic Squat, you’ll also find several Squat variations you can use to take your workouts to the next level. Finally, check out some of STACK’s Squat workout videos, featuring elite athletes like Ndamukong Suh, Josh Cribbs and Abby Wambach, to learn how you can adapt the Squat for your sport.
- Assume athletic stance with bar on back and feet slightly wider than hip width
- Keeping back straight and knees behind toes, sink hips back and lower into squat until thighs are parallel to ground
- Extend hips and knees to drive up out of squat position
- Repeat for specified reps
Beginners should focus on perfecting form and technique before adding resistance. Start by performing Bodyweight Squats and Wall Squats or using a broomstick in place of a barbell.
For an additional challenge, increase your Squat depth or rise up onto your toes to strengthen your calves. To continue muscle growth, alter the bar and foot positions to challenge your lower-body muscles from different angles. To develop strength equally in both legs and improve, try single-leg exercises.
Common Squat Mistakes and Solutions
- Knees Collapse Inward: Reduce the weight on the bar for subsequent sets. Also, perform Bodyweight Squats with a mini-band wrapped around thighs just above knees to strengthen the muscles that maintain alignment of the knees with the hips and ankles.
- Knees Travel Forward Beyond Toes: Reduce the weight on the bar subsequent sets. Focus on sitting your hips back and keeping your chest up.
- Bar Resting on Neck: Causes discomfort on the neck and can lead to back pain. Instead rest the bar on your upper back, which will provide a firmer base of support.
- Leaning Forward: Places excessive strain on the lower back. If you find yourself leaning, focus on sitting your hips back and keeping your chest up. In addition, perform Bodyweight Squats to improve mobility.
- Rounded Back: Reduce the weight on the bar for subsequent sets. Strengthen the core with exercises like Hypers and Planks before adding additional resistance to your Squat.
Squat Exercise Variation
- Front Squat: This variation changes the bar position to the front of the shoulders to eliminate stress on the back.
- Dumbbell Squat: Dumbbells replace the barbell to reduce stress on the upper body, making it ideal for beginning weightlifters.
- Dumbbell Squat and Press: Adds a Shoulder Press to the Squat, which also strengthens the upper body.
- Single-Leg Squat: This bodyweight variation develops single-leg strength and balance for athletes at all levels.
- Dumbbell Split-Squat: This variation, which develops single-leg quad strength, is also good for athletes beginning to lift weight.
- Barbell Split-Squat: An advanced variation of the Split-Squat, this also focuses on single-leg quad strength.
- Dumbbell Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat: With single-leg movement, this variation improves balance while increasing quad and glute strength.
- Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat: An advanced version of the Dumbbell Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat, this exercise increases quad and glute strength and improves balance.
2.Side Lunges and Press Outs
Lunge laterally right and simultaneously explosively press ball or dumbbell away from your chest. Continue lunging/chest presses five more times, then do six left Lateral Lunges/Press-Outs. Muscles worked: chest, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, and core muscles, including upper and lower abdominal and oblique muscles.
3. Dumbbell Cross Rows
Assume the athletic position with dumbbell in right hand. Bend knees and slowly lower dumbbell across your body toward your left ankle, pause one second, and quickly pull dumbbell up toward waist. Repeat five times, then switch dumbbell to left hand for six rows toward right ankle. Builds lower, middle and upper back muscles; biceps; and abdominal muscles.
4. Step-Ups and Press-Ups
Place right foot atop bench or chair holding dumbbell or ball at chest level. Explosively push off with right foot and lift left leg high off ground while simultaneously pressing ball/dumbbell overhead. Repeat five times, then switch to left foot Step-Ups. Excellent lower- and upper-body muscle endurance builder.
5. Farmer’s Walk
Hold dumbbell in right hand and walk forward six steps, then switch hands and walk backward six steps. Promotes core stability by forcing the side without the dumbbell to work harder. Learn more about the Farmer’s Walk.
Exercise of the Week: Farmer’s Walk
Forearm strength is critical for proper upper body function in sports. Skills like throwing a baseball or football, hitting a tennis ball or slapping a hockey puck require tremendous grip and forearm strength.
The forearm is composed of several different muscles that move the hand and fingers and also work with the biceps and triceps to flex and extend the arm at the elbow. The lines you see on the top of your hand when you spread your fingers are tendons that connect the fingers to forearm muscles.
Without sufficient forearm strength, your ability to grab hold of a ball or stick and generate power will be limited. In addition, weak forearms and grip strength may prevent you from getting the most from your strength training program. You may want to perform 10 Pull-Ups, but if your forearms give out before you reach that goal, you will fail to make strength gains in your other muscles that contribute to the Pull-Up.
Start incorporating Farmer’s Walks into your exercise routine to simultaneously strengthen your forearms and grip strength.
• Start with medium-weight dumbbells that you can carry for 30 to 60 seconds
• Hold dumbbell in each hand
• Keep arms straight next to sides
• Walk in straight line and maintain good posture
• Keep core muscles tight
Distance: 30 yards or until you can no longer firmly hold weights
6. Ball or Dumbbell Woodchops and Twists
Assume athletic stance while holding ball or dumbbell overhead. Quickly drive ball/dumbbell through legs while bending knees and extending hips. Stand up and bring dumbbell/ball to chest level, rotate side to side and repeat sequence five more times. Muscles worked: core, shoulders, arms, chest, upper, middle and lower back, obliques, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings. Learn why you may want to perform this exercise if you’re a baseball player.